The Russian Key

Arcade Publishing: Skyhorse. May 2021. 240p. ISBN 9781951627720. $24.99. THRILLER
DEBUT Laber, one of the founders of Human Rights Watch, debuts with this fictionalized account of her own undercover work in the Cold War era. Smith College student Kate Landau soaks herself in Russian culture when she visits Moscow in 1954. Kate is part of a student delegation, but foils the Russian Intourist minders to have a hot fling with Max, a local student. Repercussions are harsh, but eventually things settle down. A decade later, Kate is working as a translator at the CIA, and Max re-enters her life when she is asked to monitor him in New York City. He is the KGB’s cultural attaché on the Soviet UN delegation. Their flame of passion reignites, and a roller-coaster of suspense takes off.
VERDICT When Kate says “I was in my element, one lie following another, some good, some not so good,” she is so convincing that the author’s persona never intrudes. Spring-loaded with surprises, this debut from eightysomething Laber plumbs the depths of the USSR’s brutality, in a devious tale that matches the best of the TV series The Americans and Jason Matthews’s “Russian Sparrow” trilogy.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing